Southern Tier, a new neighborhood of 60 affordable apartments just east of the Martha’s Vineyard Ice Arena in Oak Bluffs, plans to be built in one phase instead of two after the Martha’s Vineyard Commission approved the change this week.

The project’s developers, Island Housing Trust and Affirmative Investments, received MVC approval earlier this year to build the first stage on the 7.8-acre property, beginning with 45 units and an advanced septic system to reduce nitrogen pollution.

An additional 15 apartments would follow once the Oak Bluffs sewer system acquired the capacity to handle wastewater from Southern Tier.

A $500,000 state grant to Oak Bluffs, announced in October, will allow the town to expand its wastewater capacity sooner than anticipated, making it possible for the Southern Tier developers to build the entire neighborhood in a single construction project.

“Doing one phase as opposed to two saves an enormous cost in terms of financial and closing fees … and obviously brings these units online and available for families on Island that much quicker,” said Craig Nicholson of Affirmative Investments at Thursday’s MVC meeting.

Apartments at Southern Tier will be restricted to residents with incomes between 30 per cent and 110 per cent of the median for Dukes County, with local residents given preference when the units are initially rented.

A nearly-unanimous MVC voted that a public hearing was not necessary to consider the developers’ requests to consolidate the building process and switch the originally-approved cedar trim to a durable synthetic wood called Boral.

Saying she would rather see a public hearing, Christina Brown voted against the motion, but joined the majority to vote in favor of the consolidation and trim change.

The accelerated build-out and Boral trim still must receive approval from Oak Bluffs officials before work can begin.

Also Thursday, the commission concluded its public hearing on the YMCA’s application to build a 39,000-square-foot addition. The addition plans to have a new gymnasium, indoor track and exercise studios. 

Written testimony is still being accepted until 5 p.m. Monday, and commissioners held out the possibility of a vote on the application at their Dec. 14 meeting.

Two ongoing public hearings were continued without testimony on Thursday: the proposed relocation of the Caleb Prouty house in Vineyard Haven, continued to Feb. 15, and an application by the Bangs family to subdivide property in West Tisbury, continued to Jan. 18.

The Dec. 14 commission meeting includes a public hearing on litigation by a couple whose application to demolish and rebuild their Oak Bluffs home was denied last year.

The commission also will deliberate on a retroactive demolition request from a Tisbury property owner seeking to build on the former site of a condemned building at 33 Lagoon Pond Ave.